The Shame of Vacation Shaming


For decades, the North American dream was to work hard, make a name for yourself, and most importantly, make money. Several financial crises later, however, many of us have learned that money isn’t everything, and that working yourself ragged doesn’t always guarantee that you’ll get ahead.

“Vacation shaming” is a new workplace trend that’s making employees work harder and longer hours at the expense of their personal lives. Pressure from employers and co-workers to work as much as possible keeps staff from taking time off. And it isn’t only workers in both blue- and white-collar sectors being shamed for taking a break, not even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is safe. In the summer of 2018, Trudeau was criticized by members of the conservative party for taking personal days. More recently, Ontario Premier Doug Ford rolled back on paid vacation and sick days, leaving workers in the province worried about whether they’ll be able to take any time off. For employers, it may seem fiscally responsible to get as much work out of employees as possible, but the reality is that relaxed, mentally well individuals perform better at their job.

Public awareness of mental illness and the dangers of letting mental health go unchecked is growing; conditions like depression and anxiety are just as serious as physical illnesses, and even lead to physical ailments like heart disease. Whether it’s mental or physical, any kind of health issues prevent individuals from living healthy and happy lives.

There’s also a social and political aspect to vacation shaming in the workplace. Some managers lay guilt trips on employees requesting time off, raising concerns that their work could fall behind or even passive-aggressively suggesting that they’re not as committed to their job as their colleagues. Many people have returned from a nice, relaxing vacation only to have co-workers shoot them dirty looks and make vaguely bitter comments about how it must be nice to be able to take a week or two off while everyone else in the office is busy.

But without vacations, employees lose the ability to relax and take a break. Without relief from external stressers, our brains and bodies begin to lose the ability to self-soothe. Not having a break from work increases the stress that work places on employees. When suffering from writer’s block, the best way to overcome it is to take a break and come back with a clean slate and a relaxed mind. Taking a vacation from the workplace is the same – without time off, the probability of poor performance increases.

It isn’t just employees who benefit from vacation time, but employers as well. When a staff member is on vacation, it allows employers to examine their job performance and how much that person contributes to the workplace. More than that, healthy and relaxed employees do better work, and reduce the risk of turnover due to burnt-out staff.

In the case of Rita Crundwell, lack of vacation time left her alone to control her town’s municipal finances and allowed her to scam town of Dixon, Illinois out of millions of dollars, so it might be a good idea to give employees a day or two off in case they’re committing highway robbery.


Jasmine Cormier | Contributing Writer


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